Rook 2: The Rise of Josh Richardson Is Changing The Dynamic of Miami’s Bench

Insight6 years ago10 min readMiami Heat Beat Staff

This NBA season has been a strange one. You’ve heard all of the cliches by now: “It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” “it’s not how you start, but how you finish,” or “there’s always a silver lining.”

But unless you’ve actually watched this season unfold, only then would you begin to realize how many things had to fall the right way for “Rook 2,” or Josh Richardson, to truly get his moment to shine.


So, How Did We Even Get Here?

If the following events had never occurred, “Young Thirst” might be celebrating his teammates on the bench – or freezing his ass off in Sioux Falls, SD – instead of erasing shots, dunking on and over people and hitting three after three.

First, Mario Chalmers had to be traded for Beno Udrih. Next, Tyler Johnson had to be sidelined for 2-3 months to repair a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder, which was later followed up by Udrih injuring his foot – who also needed surgery for a torn plantar plate – that ended his season and led to an eventual buyout agreement with the Heat.

After all of this, it opened up a spot in the backcourt. But even then, if Gerald Green had been even close to his preseason form instead of his horrible “Flakka-self,” or Josh McRoberts could have kept up with the new fast pace offense, it’s possible Richardson would still be playing mop-up duty minutes instead of being a part of the “Bench Mob.”

There are usually quite a few silver linings inside every NBA season. Fortunately for many Heat fans, Josh Richardson has become one of them.

zz01yjzjy2i3zwuzywvinddjmmqzodzkzmviodfmndc2mg-e1457582087326


Josh Richardson, The Volunteer

Richardson spent four years playing collegiate basketball at the University of Tennessee, and it was his defensive prowess that intrigued NBA scouts. But, it was also his steady progress each year at Tennessee that really intrigued the Heat.

Note: Look at his improved 3-point percentages during his junior and senior years while hoisting up more attempts per game.

The man his teammates nicknamed “Breezy” because of his laid back attitude, made his burst onto the national scene during the 2014 NCAA Tournament as a junior. Richardson led the Volunteers from the First Four to the Sweet 16, averaging 19.3 points, a team-best 3.0 assists while shooting a team-high 61.7 percent from the field.

But it was Richardson’s senior campaign that made the Heat lock in on him. 

Two weeks before his senior year started, Richardson volunteered to play point guard for a team that desperately needed one. He posted his best statistical season, averaging 16 points per game with 4.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.1 steals.

Richardson was also named First Team All-SEC, made the SEC All-Defensive Team and was a defensive All-American. Miami was ready to pounce if the opportunity arose.

chet kammerer


Life as a Second-Round Draft Pick

Despite Richardson’s productive collegiate career, he wasn’t a highly touted prospect by NBA scouts. Thank God for Chet Kammerer, the Miami Heat’s director of NBA scouting. It was because of Kammerer that Miami had Josh Richardson as high as No.24 on their draft board, so you can only imagine how ecstatic the Heat were when he was available with the 40th overall pick.

It was all thanks to Mr. Kammerer, who urged Pat Riley to take a closer look at the four-year guard out of Tennessee. And while the pick didn’t look like an obvious steal for the first half of the season, Miami’s option to send Richardson on multiple stops to their D-League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, gave him the chances to develop his game when the rookie hit a learning curve.

Josh Richardson: Pre-All-Star Break

GP: 23 games
MPG: 11.5 minutes
PPG: 1.9 points
RPG: 1.1 rebounds
APG: 0.8 assists
SPG: 0.3 steals
BPG: 0.2 blocks
FG%: 25.9 percent
3FG%: 20.0 percent
Plus-Minus: -3.9
ORtg: 87.3 offensive rating
DRtg: 100.3 defensive rating
Net Rating: -13.3
eFG%: 30.6 percent
TS%: 36 percent

So, statistically, Richardson wasn’t a productive NBA player at any aspect. That’s all fine, he’s a second-round rookie, and the Heat had been looking to be contenders. Expectations for his production weren’t high, anyways. But he never stopped working.


The Evolution of “Rook 2”

Credit goes to Jason Lieser of The Palm Beach Post for this transcribed excerpt:

RICHARDSON: “It was actually an off day. Me and James Ennis came in, and (Ennis) had just left. I shot my last 100 (3-pointers) and made like 64. I was about to walk out and (Erik Spoelstra) walked through the door.”

SPOELSTRA: “J-RICH, HOW MANY DID YOU MAKE?”

RICHARDSON: “Uh, 64.”

SPOELSTRA: “No, you have to get to a point where you will not leave the gym until you get this number.”

RICHARDSON: “This was before I knew I was supposed to make 70. So I shot it again and made 65. I shot it again and made 69… I was pissed, man. It took me four or five tries, and he was making me run sprints in between each time I went.”

SPOELSTRA: “ARE WE GONNA GET THIS OR ARE YOU GONNA MAKE ME WASTE MY WHOLE DAY IN HERE?”

RICHARDSON: “Jesus, you’re right. I gotta get it together.”

SPOELSTRA: “Our program’s not for everybody… You have to have the right kind of player. A lot of players just really aren’t willing to put in that kind of work.”

RICHARDSON: “It’s a hard-nosed program. Coming from Tennessee and playing for Cuonzo Martin, that’s all I know. I don’t know any other way.”

SPOELSTRA: “I shagged balls for him for about an hour and a half before he hit that number, but it was important for him mentally.

RICHARDSON: “It was a long time. I wasn’t counting. I took my shirt off. I was mad. I was slamming it on the floor. It was a lot.”

SPOELSTRA: “You can get there, you just have to put in the time and don’t leave. Don’t leave until you get it.”

RICHARDSON, who was 69 of 99 going into the last shot: “Then I finally shot it again and got 70 on the dot… I remember shooting it and I thought it was short. I held my follow-through even after the ball hit the ground. Thank God it’s over and I finally hit 70.”

SPOELSTRA: “Alright, we can leave now.”

RICHARDSON: “Just setting a standard has been big. I never leave the gym until I hit 70. Lately, it’s been every time. I never shoot under 70 now.”

Richardson was at an early crossroads this season, and he had the choice: Fold and give up, or work even harder and hope for the best. He chose the latter, determined to make the most out of his opportunities.

It’s safe to say that his choice has been paying off to the fullest as of late. Richardson has been absolutely on fire (🔥) since All-Star weekend, currently averaging:

Josh Richardson: Post-All-Star Break

GP: 14 games
MPG: 26.4 minutes
PPG: 9.6 points
RPG: 2.6 rebounds
APG: 1.6 assists
SPG: 1.2 steals
BPG: 0.8 blocks
FG%: 54.4 percent
3FG%: 62.9 percent
Plus-Minus: + 3.5
ORtg: 110.2 offensive rating
DRtg: 102.6 defensive rating
Net Rating: 7.5
eFG%: 66.7 percent
TS%: 67.7 percent

Josh Richardson’s effectiveness has improved a ton, and it shows.

His J… 

is Rich

/rimshot

He’s been Miami’s best perimeter shooter over the past few weeks, which is actually saying something considering Joe Johnson’s 3-point percentage since coming to Miami has been just shy of 60 percent.

Although the man known as “Rook 2” is shooting at an unsustainable rate, Richardson continues to show he can be an effective role player in other areas.

As an athletic six-foot-six combo guard with a six-foot-ten wingspan, the rookie has the tools (and has shown the effort) to continue being an effective and energetic pest on defense. Not only that, but he’s also a smart defender.

He talks about taking pride in guarding the stars of the league by utilizing smart footwork to go along with his natural tools, and it’s evident when you watch him defend.

Even when his shooting inevitably regresses (even if it’s only a little), teams will have to respect Richardson’s shooting prowess, which will spread the floor for guys like Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade and Johnson to maneuver inside the paint.

Richardson has been a bit of magical solution for the Heat. If this sustains, he will have blossomed into a 22-year-old “3-and-D” energy spark plug off the bench, who will be on an insanely team-friendly contract for the next three seasons by the way.

God bless, Pat Riley, Spoelstra, Kammerer, the Skyforce, the Heat’s developmental program and Richardson for not getting overwhelmed and “chewed up” by his NBA transition. The rise of Josh Richardson is underway.


Harrison Cytryn & Alex Toledo contributed to this article.